Wednesday 28 May 2008

Despondency and Depression

One of my favourite things is just chatting to other photographers about life and image making. it's always interesting to share views and news from the world behind the lens.

One thing that seems to come up from time to time, is a crisis of self confidence. It's often surprising to hear photographers ,who's work you really admire, to tear their latest creations apart or listen to them despair that nothing they have taken lately is any good. This is often followed by talking about giving up completely or deleting their websites and portfolios.

I think this is an inevitable side effect of striving for perfection. If you are lucky enough to create an image you are completely happy with then your own personal standards go up in accordance with it. This new standard becomes your new target for every image. Landscape and outdoor photography can be particularly harsh in this respect as one day you can have fantastic lighting and every shot is a winner.Then a whole week of drab grey skies can appear to completely destroy your mojo.

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer - and often the supreme disappointment.
Ansel Adams

Sunset at Strawberry Hill Ponds, Epping Forest
(Click to view large)

Unfortunately real life intervenes and most of us don't have the luxury of waiting a whole week at a location till it all comes right like David Noton or Joe Cornish seem to. As an aside I visited David Notons stunning exhibition a while back with a friend and decided that he must be one of the most unlucky photographers in the world. Every image seemed to have a description of how he had waited days for the light to be right or trekked for miles to get to the location - by the end of it you willed him to say "I opened my hotel window…to be greeted by this scene". Still his dedication has been duly rewarded by some amazing images.

So if you are despairing of your images at the moment it is important to recognise the reasons for this:
  • Your standards are high
  • Your previous images were good
  • You are striving for perfection

I think these are all good things so there is really no need to be so down in the mouth - just get out there and take some more pictures.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, the amount of times I've looked at other people's work or got an average looking set of transparencies back and though, 'that's it – I'm giving up'. But thinking about it, and looking back through the last year and a half's work I can see that my quality of work is creeping up.

Luckily those 'Oh no I'm hopeless' moments are just about balanced with the occasional 'actually, that's really rather good' moments!

The other spectre that occasionally rears it's ugly head is the question of why you're actually making photographs at all. I'm sure the answer to that one differs depending on the photographer. For me, I'm not 100% sure yet. I think it's the sum of a number of parts – getting out and really seeing the landscape, normally at it's most beautiful moments; a desire to make art that others will appreciate; a love of the process (especially now I use a large format camera); the thought that one day a personal exhibition at the Tate Modern would be nice!

Chris Shepherd said...

Thanks for the comment Dav - glad to hear I struck a chord.

The "why do I do it?" is a great question, I must ask it one day :)